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UN Summit To Discuss Governance Of Internet

by Glen Shapiro, LawAndTax-News.com, New York

04 December 2003


There are fears that certain countries may push for United Nations (UN) regulation of the internet at the forthcoming World Summit on the Information Society, to be held in Switzerland on December 10-12.

The summit, which is sponsored by the UN's key telecommunications agency, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), is expected to be attended by 50 heads of state, and between 5,000 and 6,000 representatives from governments, businesses, and the non-profit sector.

Although the remit of the meeting is to discuss the large gap between developed and developing countries with regard to their access to telecommunications services, one of the recommendations contained within a draft declaration of principles is for the governance of the internet to be placed under the ITU, or a new body created by the UN for the purpose.

Supporters of the proposals are said to include China, Syria, Egypt, South Africa, and Vietnam. However, the plan has been strongly criticised by many media and civil liberties organisations, which have argued that to bring the internet out of the private sector in such a way could lead to a threat to the principles of democracy and free speech.

The US position was made abundantly clear earlier this week by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Michael Powell, who told an FCC hearing on the issue that:

"No regulator, either federal or state, should tread into this area without an absolutely compelling justification for doing so."


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